back to article Epic decision sees jury find Google's Play store is illegal monopoly

Epic Games has won its antitrust battle against Google. The case was heard by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. As The Register has reported, the matter tested Epic's allegations that Google stifles competition by requiring developers to pay it commissions even if they use third-party …

  1. Sora2566 Bronze badge

    For crying out loud... just break it up already. We've all got eyes. We can all see what they're doing is classic Monopolising. While you're at it, break up the rest of FAANG too.

    1. Charles Bu

      Breaking up is hard to do x

      Big tech: "we made it, we grew it, we love it ... but now they wanna take our code-child away."

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

        About the only things Google ever created that succeeded are search and gmail. The rest they bought in.

        1. Dinanziame Silver badge

          Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

          I think Chrome was started by Google. And they might have initially bought YouTube and Google Maps, but those have so little in common with what they used to be at the time that I'm willing to attribute the success to Google as well.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

            > I think Chrome was started by Google.

            The engine behind Chrome was originally based on WebKit, which was a fork of KHTML, which was originally created as part of the KDE project. So I would argue that Google didn't "start" it, except in a branding sense.

            1. MrDamage Silver badge

              Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

              > "So I would argue that Google didn't "start" it, except in a branding sense."

              See: The Cupertino Method

        2. Charles Bu

          Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

          We digress, but they didn't even actually originate search - that was espotting or overture iirc.

          But Edison arguably didn't originate the light bulb, da Vinci didn't originate all his stuff, etc etc.

          My comment was just for funz x

          1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

            Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

            Edison is actually a great metaphor for google. He invented hardly any of the stuff he claimed credit for, but used extremely mercenary business practices to ensure he was the one who got the credit, and profited from it.

            Just like Henry Ford is a great metaphor for Elon Musk...

          2. catprog

            Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

            Did overtune invent search itself (pagerank) or just a business model?

        3. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

          Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

          What's innovative about Gmail? Yahoo's web mail existed 7 years before Google's did, and they were hardly the first.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

            At the time it was launched, the main innovation was 1GB of free storage. Not innovative technically, but from a business point of view it was a game changer.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

            Gmail was the first very-widely-used AJAX (well, XHR) web single-page application. While Microsoft invented XHR and the idea of AJAXy1, single-page, server-driven web applications, they weren't very successful at getting users to adopt them. Google were, and that made a huge change to the web as used by most people.

            Whether that was a good change is debatable. And whether it represents innovation on Google's part, or just a better ability to market an approach, is also debatable.

            1The acronym "AJAX" was coined by Jesse James Garrett in 2005, a year after Gmail launched and eight years (!) after Active Directory first appeared, and as it happened Garrett turned out to be largely wrong about the XML part (but then, so was Microsoft when they named XMLHttpRequest). But he recognized that the basic idea was going to become more common, and gave it a name that stuck.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Breaking up is hard to do x

              I think, at least in the region I lived in at the time, Google's big thing was having infinitely scrollable usable maps. Before it came along we had Streetmap, which was essentially more of a series of jpegs of A-Z maps you could access via directional arrow links from your start point.

    2. NewThought

      If you break up Google, you will gift the personal computing market to Microsoft, who are well over 10x more evil than Google.

      Google offer lots of really good free services, and contributes a boat load of open source software. Microsoft NEVER offer free services unless they're absolutely forced to.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
        Devil

        Breaking up doesn't mean destroying. Just makes the various divisions operate independently. Linking up the data from all those services is about as evil as everything MS do, to the point that they got jealous and imitated the practice in recent Windows versions.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Do we leave Microsoft in charge of Chrome development?

          As far as I can see, advertising on search pays for most of what Google does. Split from that, I'm not sure how many of its other services are viable.

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: Do we leave Microsoft in charge of Chrome development?

            The parts would have their own advertising revenues. Just like these services do today when being offered by people other than Google.

            It is the cross-subsidy that needs to be got rid of: reduce Google's revenues to the advertising available from search. Let them offer other services like Mail, Drive, etc on a level playing field - each one subsidised by its own advertising (just like the competitive services will be). But most importantly of all, prevent any of them from sharing and cross-referencing information (i.e. stop them creating profiles of users beyond what they see from each service itself).

            1. catprog

              Re: Do we leave Microsoft in charge of Chrome development?

              Does that mean drive and Gmail will each have to offer 15GB each instead of shared space?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Although I would agree with the assertion than MS is evil, your definition of 'free' is only correct if you consider details about your personal life and interaction with others and Internet resources as having no value.

        Given the current market cap of Google I think that would be wrong.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        With Linux being a mainstream OS these days, Apple a viable option, and loads of home users using mobile devices...

        ...I think Microsoft's days of massive dominance are in the past. That's why they're pushing subscriptions so much, it makes them more money than the old days of Windows and Office revisions.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Google offer lots of really good free services...until they get bored with them or they don't bring in enough ad revenue at which point they shit-can them and you have to find something else.

        So, not free really and have likely killed off what may have been viable alternatives before terminating themselves.

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    I wonder why Google opted for a jury trial

    For civil cases trial by judge is typically the default (it may vary by jurisdiction) but the defendant can request trial by jury. For such a major case it would have been up to Google to determine who they want deciding their fate.

    Either they believed there were some judges would rule against them, or they believed a jury in that district would be favorable to them. Oops!

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: I wonder why Google opted for a jury trial

      Google asked for trial by judge, Epic requested a jury trial and the judge accepted this.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder why Google opted for a jury trial

        Interesting, I guess Epic was OK without a jury against Apple - maybe they decided to try it both ways to hedge their bets?

        I also saw an article hinting that Google had made side deals with other games publishers to take a lesser cut in exchange for not using alternate app stores... It wasn't a technical article so it may have got some of the details wrong but if that's what they did I could see where it was looked at more harshly than Apple.

        Yes Apple does not allow alternate app stores but they do treat everyone equally in the amount of cut they take and the rules they enforce. If Google was taking affirmative action to try to hamstring the alternate app stores and not treating all game/app publishers the same that's going to get them in a lot more hot water and would be another reason for the very differing verdicts reached in the respective cases.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder why Google opted for a jury trial

        Saw an article where Epic's CEO said the major factor in his mind was not only that Google had secret deals with other games publishers, but that they deleted chat logs and withheld evidence. Obstruction of justice is always going to be a bad look whether you are before a judge or a jury!

  3. bazza Silver badge

    Where Could This Go?

    A key thing is probably what impact this has on the Google Play Services, the closed source software from Google that turns AOSP Android into usable, play-store-and-Google-services connected Android. If Google are shorn of Play Store, are they then unavoidably also shorn of Play Services?

    If so, then at that point they have lost control of Android, and companies like Samsung could start making inroads into ads, services, etc for themselves. Or, they could offer versions of Android that do no data grabbing whatsoever but are still functional, using their own spin of Play Services stripped of analytics data gathering.

    I've no idea what the world would look like then, or whether that'd be better or not. But, either way, that could be calamotous news for Google. There could also be a lot of fragmentation, general dissolution of the Android ecosystem. It could be really bad news for Apple too, if the new Android world ended up highlighting their closed ecosystem even more than it already is.

    All that is speculation. More popcorn needed to see what actually transpires.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where Could This Go?

      There are several other APK stores that work with or without Play Services enabled.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Where Could This Go?

        There are, but for some users there will be some killer app that's only available in the Play Store and that they're not willing to go without. Hard to guess what proportion of users are in that camp.

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Where Could This Go?

      There are several usable, functional AOSP based Android OS that work without Google Play Services and without data grabbing.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Where Could This Go?

        Not so much anymore considering just how much functionality Google has buried into the binary blob Google Play Services. They literally issue security patches to the OS via that service at times. On the one hand, it can be a handy way to make sure even devices running Android 2.x are getting updates long after the mfr abandoned them, but it's also been their end run around AOSP and pre-DoubleClick Google's promise to create an open source mobile OS to counter iOS. They've replaced all the apps on top of AOSP with their own proprietary versions and then force device makers to sign a draconian agreement if they want access to any of them. And trying to sell an Android device without the Gmail app is basically like committing seppuku.

        1. Captain Hogwash

          Re: Not so much anymore

          I disagree. MicroG deals with most problems caused by the lack of Play Services. Updates are available which allow devices to run Android several versions later than the point at which the manufacturers abandon them. If you mean "There are several usable, functional AOSP based Android OS that work without Google Play Services and without data grabbing" and devices which can be bought running such an OS from a retailer, then yes I agree a little. But Europe is leading the way on this.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Not so much anymore

            "Updates are available which allow devices to run Android several versions later than the point at which the manufacturers abandon them."

            If you're very lucky and find that the phone's systems aren't locked down, that the hardware is sufficiently documented, and that either you know enough on how to build an image from scratch that's compatible with all the hardware or know someone else who does. For the vast majority of people, they have no way of knowing whether their phone could support any of these and for most of them, the answer is no. That a few devices support such a thing does not make it anything but the exception.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Where Could This Go?

      To the appeals court, of course. It ain't over 'til it's over.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where Could This Go?

      They could force Google to allow third party payment systems. (Which could mean you could buy Kindle books in the Kindle app/Amazon app).

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Where Could This Go?

        Good. It's ridiculous that you can't buy music sold by Amazon and hosted by Amazon because Google think they're entitled to a cut of the sale. A rather large cut. Certainly more than the artist responsible for the music would ever see.

        Bastards.

        Ditto Kindle, as mentioned, these are not things that rely on Google's infrastructure, they don't handle the payments, they don't host the content, and threatening to kick apps that don't comply (and either pay up or greatly inconvenience the users) is little more than a protection racket.

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          Re: Where Could This Go?

          >> " It's ridiculous that you can't buy music sold by Amazon and hosted by Amazon because Google think they're entitled to a cut of the sale."

          What's ridiculous is people thinking they "own" anything they buy from amazon that also gets hosted by them. Remember when they removed 1984 from people's Kindle's because Amazon lkost the rights to host it?

          https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html

          How about when Warner Bros decide to purchase Final Space, write it off for tax reasons, and thus rendered it dead and forcibly removed it from people's online libraries.

          https://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/ent/warner-bros-deleting-purchases.html

          If you don't own it on hard copy, you don't own it.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Where Could This Go?

            I don't buy Kindle books (don't have a Kindle), but I do buy music.

            Once you've figured out the really shitty interface to Amazon music (*)(#), you'll eventually find a way to download the music as mp3 files to drop into your regular music collection to be played by whatever. They can't remove files you've downloaded and put elsewhere, only stuff you are relying on having hosted in "the cloud" which brings us back to the question of whether or not you own anything that lives in the cloud.

            And on that point, I agree with you. You are, at best, "borrowing" on the whims of publishers and service providers, and paying nearly full price for the privilege. So, if you can't locate a copy outside of the app (or an actual physical copy), then indeed you own jack shit.

            * - Bandcamp is better, you can get wav and flac and it isn't so horribly painful to try to use.

            # - I haven't actually bought anything from Amazon since Google pulled this stunt so maybe it's simpler? Given how much they broke the Music app when they opened up all the albums last year (or was it the year before?), I rather doubt it. When they only had a small selection of albums, it was a lesser choice but it worked and you could download an album and listen to it freely; now you can choose any of the available albums but you can't download most things (streaming only) and it'll often play whatever the hell it feels like playing, which is frequently entirely different artists in entirely different genres. Given that my main use case was to download a couple of albums before heading out with the tractor-mower, you can understand why the shiny new version is a total waste of time.

            In short, if it's in the cloud, don't trust it. If you don't have an actual copy (real or digital but as an actual file), you don't have a copy.

    5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Where Could This Go?

      I hope this returns some power to AOSP. The open source community can create APIs that benefit Android users but Google's Play Store can block apps that use them.

      And it does. Google started prohibiting apps that access shared storage unless they use the glacially slow SAF. They changed APIs to prohibit non-Google backups. It was part of a long-term plan to force users to buy Google Cloud storage.

  4. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    I think Apple will worry about their app store on iOS a bit.

    The Mac App Store and Windows Store are probably OK so long as they don't restrict the OS to only loading programs downloaded from there. Windows S is probably OK because it's a cheaper version and/or designed for corporate deployments to stop you-know-who from accounting sneakily installing that strip poker game again...

    Jaded and cynical, moi? Meh, who cares...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd argue that most users of an ecosystem are more likely to use an alternate app store on Android than on Apple. If you've deliberately bought into what you knew was a walled garden vs a more open one then you're less likely to go wondering. Some will, most won't.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This is the mother of all Google trials

    Monumental. A jury has found against Google. It's going to cost Alphabet some pocket money to bury Epic under endless appeals.

    More importantly, if this judgement is upheld, Google's entire gaming revenue stream is going to be upheaved in a major way. Goodbye 30%, hello 5%, or maybe 10%. Gosh, Board bonuses are going to dip by 5%.

    Aw, shucks.

    1. Electronics'R'Us
      Holmes

      Re: This is the mother of all Google trials

      Many years ago when I lived in the USA, I had a girlfriend who was a lawyer.

      When it comes to jury trials, she explained to me that the jury is the finder of fact and the judge is the finder of law.

      For an appeal to overturn the jury finding, Google will have a very uphill battle as it will have to show that the evidence, as presented was incorrect or lacking. She told me that overturning a jury decision is very difficult.

      To appeal otherwise they must show that the findings of law were incorrect.

      Interesting times indeed.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: This is the mother of all Google trials

        "She told me that overturning a jury decision is very difficult."

        Burying it just required money.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    confused

    As to why Epic "won" against Google but "lost" against Apple

    On Android you can sideload an apk eaasily

    On Android there are alternative app stores ranging from "big names" such as Samsung store (prominent on last Samsung phone I had) and Amazon through to more dev oriented stores such as F-Droid.

    So Apple is the one I would have expected as a big loss.

    Though outcome of these cases has me torn - despise Google, Apple and Epic.

    Full disclosure - I use Android phone (as least bad solution as less walled garden than Apple), unfortunately cannot flash to use a different phone OS (or root) as need a few "security" related apps* for work purposes that require non rooted Android (or an Apple device).

    * Yes, the irony is not lost on me that once I have rooted an Android device I can make it a lot more secure than the "vanilla" instance

    1. Test Man

      Re: confused

      I think it's not because there are other app stores, it's that Google have selectively allowed these app stores by way of payment, which means unless you are a massive company like Samsung you are not going to be able to launch an app store on Android, or launch your app on another app store without contravening Google's Android agreements.

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: confused

      Apple is not forcing other phone manufactures to only include the Apple app store on their devices, in fact no other phone manufactures even have the Apple app store on their devices at all.

      You are allowed to include or prohibit whatever software you like on your own devices, it becomes an issues when you start using your market position to force other manufacturers to do the same.

      1. catprog

        Re: confused

        On my Samsung phone their is the galaxy store in addition to the Google store

    3. ExampleOne

      Re: confused

      They lost against Apple because the judge ruled that the iPhone App Store was not a monopoly because the market should be defined as all smartphones.

      The jury here have decided that Google Play Store is a monopoly, which at least implies they disagree with the Apple case judge on the question of how the market is defined.

      1. Nuno

        Re: confused

        In their position, I would try to sue both google and apple as a cartel, as they both cornered the app store market with very high and very similar prices

  7. gedw99

    5 years more

    Appeals etc will take 5 years.

    As an app developer o wish the EU and US would just rule that app stores must be independent and we can bill however we want . Would solve it all in 1 hit.

    Then users and developers have the freedom to choose.

    The only fly is hacking but each OS has capability based security so users can restrict an app breaking g out of its sandbox that way. Don’t see it as any different from the guarantees Google and apple provide actually . Their checking is about policing billing rather than user security anyway imho

  8. sketharaman

    Wall Street Yawns

    Rightly so.

    "Wall Street is betting big tech can amass power faster than antitrust regulators, judges and juries can chip away at it. The stock prices of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta Platforms and Microsoft have seen more than twice the growth rate of the S&P 500 index this year - a time during which most of those five firms faced an onslaught of claims that they had abused monopoly power. Investors have had plenty of fuel for their confidence this year. Lina Khan's Federal Trade Commission, demonstrating more bark than bite, keeps losing important cases against tech giants like Meta and Microsoft." ~ @theinformation.

    Besides, there's nothing stopping Google from scrapping free listing and charging listing fees on all apps in Play Store. Rake affected only 3% of big app developers, listing will kill most of the 97% of small app developers whose apps are free. This will end up favoring the big app developers and killing the small app developers, thereby shrinking the supplier base, which is exactly the opposite of what antitrust is supposed to do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wall Street Yawns

      Wall Street isn't that great at making predictions - share prices rise until they f*cking tank. Witness the number of crashes we've had in the last 25 years. Hardly predictive powers at their best.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Wall Street Yawns

      "Besides, there's nothing stopping Google from scrapping free listing and charging listing fees on all apps in Play Store. Rake affected only 3% of big app developers, listing will kill most of the 97% of small app developers whose apps are free. This will end up favoring the big app developers and killing the small app developers, thereby shrinking the supplier base, which is exactly the opposite of what antitrust is supposed to do."

      You're making several leaps to get there. Yes, it's possible for an antitrust action to have that effect, but first, Google would not be required to make a change like that no matter how cases go and second, it would be a ridiculously stupid thing for them to do, they know that, and therefore they won't do it. Android wouldn't sell very well if the number of apps was cut dramatically. Lots of other platforms have proved that.

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